Slate Ridge owner says he’s in compliance with court order, asks judge to vacate arrest warrant
The owner of a controversial military-style training facility in West Pawlet claims he has torn down unpermitted structures on his property and wants an environmental court judge to vacate a warrant out for his arrest, according to recent court filings.
In an affidavit filed Friday in environmental court, Daniel Banyai wrote that he’d torn down several structures on his Slate Ridge property.
“As of July, 26, 2023, I am in full compliance with the order and have deconstructed and removed all applicable structures from my property,” Banyai wrote in the affidavit.
Banyai’s affidavit also included several pictures that he said showed that he’d taken down the buildings.
Banyai had previously ignored multiple court orders to remove the buildings, and faces more than $100,000 in fines. According to VTDigger, on July 6, Superior Court Judge Thomas Durkin ruled Banyai was in contempt of a March 2021 order, and issued an arrest warrant for Banyai — a rare move in an environmental court proceeding.
Banyai’s attorney Robert Kaplan cited his clients actions in a motion filed Friday asking Judge Durkin to rescind his order to arrest Banyai and purge all civil contempt sanctions against him. That motion is still pending. Banyai also appealed the arrest order to the Vermont Supreme Court, according to VTDigger.
Kaplan did not respond to a request for comment.
As of Tuesday morning Banyai hadn’t been taken into custody, said Rutland County sheriff David Fox.
“We're still actively trying to seek him,” Fox said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “There really hasn't been any change until we hear something from the court.”
Fox said his officers have stopped by Banyai’s property, but they can’t go onto it to arrest him because they don’t have a warrant to enter the property.
“The logistics of actually securing the property while the warrant is written would be quite an undertaking because it's a fairly large property that borders New York, and it would take some time to get that together,” Fox said.
Banyai and the town have been at odds since 2017 when Banyai built outdoor shooting ranges on his 30 acre property and began operating a firearms training facility without proper permits.
Neighbors complained of loud gunfire and called on local officials to intervene. In response, neighbors say Banyai and his accomplices terrorized and threatened them.
Michelle Tilander and her husband Paul live about a quarter mile from Slate Ridge and said the fact that no local officials have visited the property, and there has been no follow through from law enforcement, has been maddening.
“I’m disgusted — and I’m very let down as a U.S. citizen that our state, all the way from the Governor, the attorney general, state police, local police, and sheriff, environmental divisions … so far, nobody has gone up there,” Tilander said in an interview this week. “Enforcement has been a problem from day one, it’s always been an enforcement problem.”
Tilander is skeptical that Banyai has actually torn down the unpermitted buildings on his property — and she wants the town to inspect it.
“He has been seen passing to and fro with material on his truck, a lot of material going in, and some things coming out,” she said. “But if you’re deconstructing, why do you bring material in?”
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